The Meeting at Columbia, October 16, 1861; The Case of Bishop Polk;
The Consecration of Bishop Wilmer; The "General Council" of November 12, 1862.
The Convention which met in Trinity Church, Columbia, S. C, October 16-20, 1861, was an adjourned meeting of that which had assembled in Montgomery July 3. By this time the situation had so developed that every Diocese in the South felt free to participate in its proceedings. Bishop Lay, Missionary Bishop of the Southwest, having his residence and chief work in Arkansas, was also present. Of the Bishops, only Bishop Polk was absent. Texas had no clerical or lay representatives in attendance, and Tennessee and Louisiana were represented only in the clerical order; but with these exceptions each Diocese was present by its Bishop and its deputies of both orders. As at Montgomery, all sat together in one deliberative body under the presidency of the senior Bishop, now the venerable Bishop Meade, of Virginia.
The chief business was the consideration of the report of the committee appointed at Montgomery to prepare the draft of a Constitution and a body of Canons for the Church in the Confederate States. However, only the proposed Constitution could be taken up, the Canons being referred to future consideration and action.
As reported by the committee, the Constitution was, for the most part, but a rearrangement, in somewhat better and more convenient form, of the Constitution of the Church in the United States. Its one marked departure was the introduction of the principle of the Provincial System, so related to the general and diocesan organization that, with the growth of the Church and the multiplication of Dioceses, the development into Provinces would have been automatic and unavoidable. So long as an entire State remained within the limits of one Diocese, that Diocese constituted one Province, and no change was made. But as soon as more than one Diocese should be formed within a State, at once the Provincial machinery came into operation. The several diocesan councils within the State Province would send their representatives to the Provincial Council. This Provincial Council in turn would elect deputies from its several included Dioceses to the triennial General Council; and it would be only through the medium of the Provincial Council that the several Dioceses would have their relations with the General Council and with the Church in other Dioceses and Provinces. In the House of Deputies of the General Council each Province would have but one vote in each order; and in the House of Bishops all the Bishops of one Province, whatever their number, would have but one vote, which would be cast by the senior Bishop of the Province. Each Province would send five clerical and five lay deputies to the General Council. Pending the operation of the proposed Provincial System, each Diocese should be represented in the General Council by three deputies of each order.
This was too radical a departure from the familiar system to command general support, but the Provincial System was so far adopted as to allow two or more Dioceses, formed within a single State, to unite and constitute a Province, should they desire to do so; as has since been allowed by the Constitution of the Church in the United States. If State Provinces are to be desired, then the scheme set forth in the proposed Constitution for the Church in the Confederate States is much better than what we now have, for it would have effected its purpose, which our present Article VII has never done.
In the discussion of the first Article of the proposed Constitution the Rev. Richard Hines, of Tennessee, moved to amend by substituting the words "Reformed Catholic" in place of "Protestant Episcopal," in the name of the Church; and Bishops Otey, Green, and Atkinson, and the Rev. Mr. Hewett, of Florida, voted with Dr. Hines for the change. [As this seems to have been the first formal movement to give this name to our Branch of the Church in America, it may be well to notice the reasons assigned in the very meagre account in The Church Intelligencer of what must have been a most interesting discussion; "Bishop Atkinson... considered the question between 'Protestant' and 'Reformed'--the latter expressed a fact, the former a spirit. The term Protestant denoted unrest, doubt, unbelief, and was indefinite. He knew what the Reformation was,--he did not know what Protestantism was... .He liked the word Catholic because it indicated the continuity of the Church of Christ." Church Intelligencer, Nov. 1, 1861. It was claimed by some at the time that but for the opposition from Virginia the change of name would have been adopted. This, however, seems very improbable.] It was defeated by a large majority, as was also a proposal to omit the word "Protestant" in the same connection.
The Constitution as adopted reduced the number of Presbyters and of self-supporting parishes required for the formation of a new Diocese. It also put the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies upon an equality in matters of legislation, by removing the provision of our old Article III, by which action by the House of Deputies might become effective without the concurrence of the House of Bishops, and even in opposition to their action, unless they should act and notify the Deputies within three days.
Thus, with very inconsiderable alterations, the Constitution remained as it had been before. There appeared to be no eager desire for change or for emphasizing the fact of separation. Nothing was attempted in the way of legislation at this time. It was felt that, until the Constitution had been ratified and adopted by the Dioceses, there could be no proper basis for canonical action; and so the whole body of Canons, prepared and reported along with the Constitution to the Convention of October, 1861, was ordered to be printed, and was referred to the first General Council to be held under the Constitution when adopted. One of the changes of the new Constitution was to substitute "Council" for "Convention" in the name of the legislative assemblies, both of the Dioceses and of the national triennial meetings, with the rather unfortunate result of giving to the latter the name, quite inappropriate, of "General Council." The name Council is still retained in some of the Southern Dioceses as the designation of the annual Convention.
The report of the committee, appointed at Montgomery in July to draw up a scheme for carrying on the general missionary work, was also referred to the future Council, and Mr. Sass and Mr. Trescott were requested to continue to act as treasurers of Domestic and Foreign Missions respectively. They were authorized to distribute such funds as might be sent to them for general work among the missionaries in the field. Contributions for Domestic Missions were ordered to be "distributed among the Bishops, for their respective fields, according to the rates of appropriation made by the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States for the present year."
It was, on motion of the Rev. Richard H. Wilmer, afterwards Bishop of Alabama,
"Resolved, That the Convention, in view of the present circumstances of the Country, recognize with peculiar solemnity the duty of the Church towards the people of the African race within our borders, and earnestly urge upon the ministry and laymen of the Church increased effort for the spiritual improvement of this people."
The Diocese of Alabama, being without a Bishop, had applied to this Convention for advice as to the possibility of procuring the Consecration of a Bishop before the ratification and adoption of the proposed Constitution and Canons of the Church in the Confederate States. The petition was referred to a committee consisting of the three senior Bishops present, Bishop Meade, Bishop Otey, and Bishop Elliott. The report made by this committee is said to have been written by Bishop Meade, and is rather vague and indecisive in dealing with the very important questions involved. Its unsatisfactory character is believed to have been the reason why it was passed over by the Convention without any action. But as illustrating the spirit of the Convention, and its temper and feeling in approaching this matter, its purpose in connection with what has sometimes been spoken of as a "Schismatical Consecration," a few lines of the report may be quoted: "All the Confederate States, by the goodness of God, possess the privilege of Episcopal supervision except Alabama. The ordinary course of canonical proceedings for the election and Consecration of a Bishop has been stopped by the interruption of all intercourse between the Northern and Southern States in the late Federal Union. This interruption, however, of social and ecclesiastical intercourse between brethren of the same communion, however much to be regretted, has been occasioned by circumstances over which the Church in its ecclesiastical organization has had no control, and it is still highly desirable and earnestly wished that the 'unity of the spirit' be preserved by us all 'in the bond of peace,' and that that same spirit of love and peace, which our Lord so earnestly inculcated in his first followers, be cultivated and cherished among us." The report goes on to suggest that the Diocese of Alabama should proceed in the usual manner to elect a successor to Bishop Cobbs, and that the result of such choice should then be certified in the usual course to the Standing Committees and the Bishops of the Dioceses within the Confederate States, upon whose favorable response it seemed to be presumed that the Presiding Bishop would take order for the Consecration of the person so chosen and approved. So far as appears in the printed Journal, no action whatever was taken on this report, nor was the subject-matter of it further referred to. We shall see, however, that it was not without effect.
The Convention before adjourning, upon a motion by the Rev. Dr. Wilmer,
"Resolved, That this Convention recommend to the several Dioceses within the Confederate States, until more permanent action can be taken, the provisional adoption of the body of Canons known as the 'Canons of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America,' so far as they are not in conflict with the political relations of the Confederate States, and do not interfere with the necessities of our condition."
After a session of nine days this second general meeting of the Church in the Confederate States adjourned, having done its work diligently, faithfully, and well. So far as can be judged by the record, and so far as tradition has testified of their words and of their spirit, it is hard to find a blemish in the work of those patient and godly men.
It was not until about the beginning of the year 1862 that the War became very real to us in the South, or its pressure very apparent. One mark, however, it made in this first period upon the Church. One of the foremost Bishops of the South, and of the whole country, was absent from his place in the councils of the Church, and was in high command in the Confederate Army. The Bishop of Louisiana came of a race of soldiers, and, after leaving the University of North Carolina, had been educated at the Military Academy at West Point. Under the pressure of the times, and upon the threatened invasion of his country, he had felt it to be his duty to respond to the call made upon him, that he should contribute his personal service in organizing for defence against invasion, by accepting an important position, which at the time there seemed no one else at hand capable of filling. This was his own statement of the case; and as soon as the emergency had passed, he made earnest efforts to resign the charge and to lay down his commission. The authorities, however, declined to accept his resignation, and much pressure was brought to bear upon him to dissuade him from his purpose of retiring; and, as time went on, his Diocese, coming more and more into the occupancy of the enemy, left but little opportunity for the exercise of ordinary episcopal duty. He therefore continued in the hard, laborious, and self-sacrificing service of the field and the camp until the tragic end at Pine Mountain, June 14, 1864.
By all testimonies General Polk's influence in the army, and especially among the general officers, was such as nobly attested his character and the reality of the qualities best becoming his position in the Church. He did not execute any holy function except in a few cases of emergency, but his humble and devout attendance upon services and sacraments, and his unaffected holiness of life, exerted a powerful and manifest influence in the army where he served. The highest officers of the Army of Tennessee were, with few exceptions, brought under this influence. Many of them who had not been professedly Christians were baptized and confirmed. A striking instance, among others, may be given from Bishop Quintard's personal narrative of his own eventful career. Speaking of an urgent message he had received to proceed to some distant point to baptize General Hood, he says: "It was impossible for me to go, but it was a great pleasure for me to learn that General Polk arrived with his staff that night, and baptized his brother General. It was on the eve of an expected battle. It was a touching sight, we may be sure,--the one-legged veteran, leaning upon his crutches to receive the waters of Baptism and the sign of the Cross. A few nights later General Polk baptized General Johnston and Lieutenant-General Hardee, General Hood being witness. These were two of the four ecclesiastical acts performed by Bishop Polk after receiving his commission in the army."
I shall not attempt any discussion of Bishop Polk's case. So far as his character and the purity and disinterestedness of his motives are concerned, he needs no defence. In general it is admitted that the obligation of the Ordination Vow seems to shut a clergyman off from any secular calling, from that of a soldier as from every other. Personally, however, I have no hesitation in saying that I regard the hard, unselfish, perilous, self-sacrificing life of a soldier in the camp and in the field, in time of war, as far less inconsistent with lofty spiritual attainments, and with the adequate. illustration of the very highest qualities of the Christian and priestly character, than indulgence in selfish ease, and personal comfort, and all the relaxations of an easy fortune, which few of us fail to practise when we have opportunity. Let it be admitted that the common mind and conscience of the Church have realized in experience that to bear arms is inconsistent with the priestly character. Be it so! But let the Christian mind and conscience go on and realize that many other things, which it has not come to reprobate, are still more deadly to the spiritual life and power of the clergy. It would ill become us, who so readily grasp at every opportunity of personal advantage, and are so easily persuaded to relax the rigidity of self-denying service, and so early retire from all hard labors, when the circumstances of our worldly condition allow it--it would ill become us to condemn any heroic soul, who left a great estate, and dignified ease, and domestic endearments, that he might labor, and suffer, and agonize, and die at the call of duty as he heard it. God grant that we, feeble successors of those great men, may, in some humble way and in some small measure, share in their reward at the last day! [For a noble and most satisfactory statement and vindication of Bishop Polk's case, see Dr. John Fulton's monograph on "The Church in the Confederate States," in Bishop Perry's "History of the American Episcopal Church." Those clergymen, who complacently quote the ancient Canons against a clergyman bearing arms, seem happily unaware of how many other things those ancient Canons deny to the clergy.]
Though the Convention of October, 1861, had given no reply to the petition of the Diocese of Alabama, the suggestions of the report on the subject were followed, and November 21 the Rev. Richard Hooker Wilmer, D.D., was elected Bishop by the Convention of that Diocese. This election was certified to the several Standing Committees of the Dioceses within the Confederate States, and in due course to the Bishops. Much about the same time notifications were sent out from Pennsylvania of the election by that Diocese of the Rev. William Bacon Stevens, D.D., to be Assistant Bishop. It should be remembered that at least some of the Southern Dioceses, Virginia and North Carolina, for example, had not at this time, the beginning of 1862, taken any formal action towards withdrawing from the Church in the United States. The most they had done had been to send delegates to Columbia, to confer with delegates from other Dioceses upon the question. These delegates had agreed that separation should take place, and had prepared and recommended a Constitution for the new organization; but there had been no meetings as yet of the Diocesan Conventions to adopt the proposed Constitution. It is believed that all the Standing Committees, which took action at all, declined to entertain the application from Pennsylvania, and gave their consent to the Consecration of Dr. Wilmer as Bishop of Alabama. And the Bishops, with two exceptions, did the same. These two were the Bishop of Tennessee and the Bishop of North Carolina. Of Bishop Otey we only know that he indicated that his reasons were similar to those alleged by Bishop Atkinson. The Bishop of North Carolina has left on record his view of the case. He was fully persuaded of the expediency, and even necessity, of a separate and independent organization of the Southern Dioceses, by reason of the actual situation of affairs. It was only by such organization that the Church in the South could do the work crying aloud to be done. But he was also fully persuaded that loyalty to Church principles, and therefore regard for the true interests of the Church, required him to recognize no division or separation in the Church, except such as the Church itself should have recognized and sanctioned. In the beginning of the year 1862 his Diocese had not withdrawn from the Church in the United States. It had contemplated such a step as imminent, and it had endeavored to make preparation to act prudently and wisely, and to provide for the just and proper ordering of the new ecclesiastical body which should be formed. But as yet it had not withdrawn from its old connection, nor entered into any new relationships to take the place of the old. Bishop Atkinson was not a man who could think one way and act another. Alone, as he then supposed, among Southern Bishops he gave his canonical consent to the Consecration of Dr. Stevens, as Assistant Bishop of Pennsylvania, and declined to consent to the Consecration of Dr. Wilmer to be Bishop of Alabama. He was gratified to learn soon afterwards that Bishop Otey had taken the same course. In his judgment he belonged in his old place until he had formally withdrawn with his Diocese. The proposed Constitution had not been ratified by his Diocese of North Carolina, nor by any of the Dioceses, so that Dr. Wilmer could not be consecrated under its sanction; and, in Bishop Atkinson's view, the transmission of the Apostolic office was of too important and sacred a character to be transacted without the fullest sanction of ecclesiastical law, especially when the only reason alleged was to avoid a few months' delay, three or four at the most. The general principle, inherited from the ancient Church, is that no Bishop may be consecrated, without the consent of the Bishop of the Province, thus recognizing the interest of the Church at large in the Episcopate. This principle has had different applications in different ages and countries. In the American Church its application is seen in the favorable action of the General Convention, or of the Bishops and Standing Committees during the recess of the General Convention, which is required before a Bishop can be consecrated. Bishop Atkinson felt that, in the situation of the Southern Dioceses, it was specially important to observe carefully that which they themselves recognized as the law. Within a few months the Constitution of the Church in the Confederate States would be in force. Until it should be adopted, and until he and his Diocese had acceded to it and ratified it, he could not feel at liberty to act under its provisions. Thus feeling, to a man of his moral and intellectual quality, there was only one course open, and that course he followed.
Bishop Wilmer was consecrated in St. Paul's Church, Richmond, March 6,1862, by Bishops Meade, Elliott, and Johns. This was Bishop Meade's last official act, and his death was probably hastened by his journey to Richmond for this service, and by the incidental exposure and fatigue. Eight days after the Consecration he died. He had been consecrated in 1829, and had played a very great and honorable part, both in the life of the Church in his own Diocese, and in the history of the Church throughout the United States. By the testimony of all who came within the sphere of his personal influence, he was one of the greatest characters in our history. Bishop Atkinson, who represented almost an opposite type of character and of Churchmanship, never spoke of him without the strongest expressions of admiration and reverence. In his Address to his Convention of May, 1862, is the following passage: "I have already alluded to the loss we have lately experienced of a Bishop, the oldest of our communion in the Confederate States, and I fully believe one of the wisest and best of all Christendom. I knew him long, and I knew him well, and as I often differed from him in opinion, I can bear the more emphatic testimony of his eminent worth--I have not known, no one of this generation, I believe, has known, a man superior to him in nobleness of nature, in the depth and power of religious principle, in determined zeal for what he believed truth and duty, in devotion to his Maker and his Redeemer, and, as subordinate to these, but as still standing very high in his affections, to the Church of which he was a minister, and the country of which he was a citizen."
The late Rev. Dr. Churchill J. Gibson gives us the following reminiscence of his last illness: "It was my privilege to stand at his bedside until he became unconscious, and to witness his last interview with General Lee. It was eminently characteristic of the men. Visitors had been forbidden by the doctors, but, when the General was announced as having called, the Bishop roused himself, and said, 'I must see him for a few minutes.' The General was brought in by Bishop Johns; and, grasping warmly the extended hand, he said, 'Bishop, how do you feel?'--'I am almost gone, but I wanted to see you once more.' He then made inquiries about the members of his family, Mrs. Lee by name, the daughter of his much loved cousin of Arlington, and put several earnest, eager questions about public affairs and the state of the army, showing the liveliest interest in the success of our cause, to all which the General returned brief but satisfactory answers. He then said, 'God bless you! God bless you, Robert, and fit you for your high and responsible position. I can't call you General, I have heard you your Catechism so often.' 'Yes, Bishop,' said the General, as he stooped over him and pressed his hand tenderly (and I think I saw a tear drop), 'very often.' Again our dying Bishop shook his hand warmly, and said, 'Heaven bless you! Heaven bless you, and give you wisdom for your important and arduous duties.' The General then slowly withdrew." Bishop Meade died on the fourteenth of March. He was taken away in love and mercy, that his eyes might not see the desolations of his Diocese and the sufferings of the people whom he loved.
Within a few months after Bishop Wilmer's Consecration, the Constitution of the Church in the Confederate States was adopted by the Dioceses of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Texas. Similar action was taken by Arkansas in November, 1862, and by Florida in December, 1863. The Dioceses of Tennessee and Louisiana were unable to hold any Diocesan Conventions until after the close of the War, and so never became formally united with the Church in the Confederate States. Indeed, the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Tennessee, which managed to keep up its organization, did on October 3, 1864, by giving canonical consent to the Consecration of the Rev. Thomas H. Vail to be Bishop of Kansas, recognize the continuance of their connection with the Church in the United States.
September 27, 1862, Bishop Elliott issued to the Bishops, clergy, and laity of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Confederate States a "Declaration and Summons," reciting in full the Constitution proposed by the Convention of October, 1861, and announcing the fact of its ratification and adoption by the Dioceses of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Texas. As senior Bishop, in accordance with the Third Article of said Constitution, he summoned the first "General Council" of the Church in the Confederate States to meet in Augusta, Georgia, on the second Wednesday of November following.
On the day appointed the Council met in St. Paul's Church, Augusta. Bishops Elliott, Johns, Davis, Atkinson, Lay, and Wilmer were present. Bishop Green appeared the second day, but appeared no more in his place during the session, being confined to his bed with a severe attack of pneumonia. During the session thirty clerical and lay deputies represented seven Dioceses, Texas being unrepresented, but Arkansas being admitted as a Diocese on the eighth day. Bishop Gregg and his Diocese were cut off by the hostile occupation of the Mississippi River. Tennessee, Louisiana, and Florida had not ratified the Constitution, as has been seen. The Rev. Christian Hanckle, D.D., of South Carolina, was elected President of the House of Deputies, and the Rev. John M. Mitchell, of Alabama, was made secretary. The Rev. W. H. Harrison, of Georgia, was chosen secretary of the House of Bishops.
This General Council, of November 12-22, 1862, was the only one which met during the short life of the Church in the Confederate States. Its time was almost wholly given to the uninteresting but necessary work of enacting a body of Canons for the routine government and administration of the Church. As in the case of the Constitution, this work was in effect only to recast, with some small changes and improvements, the Canons under which the Dioceses had already been living. The whole Canon Law of the General Convention had been codified at Richmond in October, 1859. The changes made in adapting this code to the necessities of the new organization were not great, and do not demand our detailed examination. It has been said, by persons very competent to judge of such matters, that the Canons were somewhat simplified, improved in some details, and reduced to a better and more convenient order. Perhaps the most important change was the omission of the Canon, "Of the use of the Book of Common Prayer." This Canon, adopted in 1832, remained among the Canons of our General Convention until the revision accomplished in 1904. In the report of the committee to the General Council of 1862 this Canon was brought forward under an enlarged and very much improved form, providing for great freedom and variety in the use of the services of the Prayer Book, in such Dioceses as should authorize the same "by the vote of a majority of both Clergy and Laity," and expressly recognizing the authority of the Bishops of the several Dioceses, to "provide such special services as, in their judgment, shall be required by the peculiar spiritual necessities of any class or portion of the population" of the Diocese. This was a distinct improvement on the rigidity of the old Canon, but it does not seem to have been considered in the Council. The Committee on Canons of the Deputies did not report it, nor does it seem to have been brought up in the House of Bishops. The whole subject of the use of the Book of Common Prayer was omitted from the Canons, and the Prayer Book, as the Church's law and standard of worship, was left to rest upon the constitutional provision that this book should be used in those Dioceses which should adopt the Constitution. In line with this was the omission of the section in the old Digest giving canonical expression to the rubrical direction as to repelling unworthy persons from the Holy Communion. The evident intention was, not to impair the high position and authority of the Book of Common Prayer, by making it appear that its regulations needed to be confirmed and enforced by canonical sanctions. It was not until forty-two years later that the Church in the United States came to see the wisdom and the logical consistency of this course. The revision accomplished at Boston in 1904 puts the authority of the Prayer Book upon the same constitutional ground, and omits all canonical enforcement of its use. Perhaps it was this same principle, of recognizing in the Prayer Book our only law and directory of public worship, which explains the further omission, from the legislation of the Church in the Confederate States, of the Canon upon the Observance of the Lord's Day, or Sunday, which our own Digest still retains.
Turning now to the practical work of the Church, it is interesting and gratifying to see how the Council, placed in so perilous a position, in the midst of the most tremendous and fateful war of modern times, addressed itself to the demands of the situation.
It is to be noted, first of all, that the Church in the Confederate States did not make its slender resources, and the overwhelming urgency of its domestic duties, a plea for contracting its sympathies or narrowing the bounds of its spiritual horizon; nor did it desire to limit its work within its own diminishing territory. There is something truly pathetic, as well as brave and noble, in the way in which it vainly tried to claim its part in the work of the Master in the distant field of Foreign Missions, from which, in the language of the Pastoral Letter, "the policy of man had shut" it off. To the report of the Committee on the State of the Church were appended the following Resolutions, which the House of Deputies adopted, as setting forth the position of the Church:
"1. Resolved, That the Church in this its first General Council, would solemnly recognize, before the Church universal and the world, a divine obligation to engage in Missionary labor coextensive with the limits of fallen humanity.
"2. Resolved, That this Church desires specially to recognize its obligation to provide for the spiritual wants of that class of our brethren, who in the providence of God have been committed to our sympathy and care in the national institution of slavery.
"3. Resolved, That whilst at all times a devout recognition of our dependence on the spirit of all grace is proper, this first Council of the Church is a most fitting time and place to make special and public acknowledgment of the same; to encourage among our members the cherishing in increased degree of an habitual sense of His presence and power; and humbly and earnestly to commit to His presiding influence the being, the doings, and the whole future history of this Church, to the end of the world."
The treasurers who had been appointed for Domestic and Foreign Missions in July, 1861, presented their reports. Mr. Henry Trescott, for Foreign Missions, reported funds collected, and several remittances made to Bishop Payne in Africa, Bishop Boone in China, and the Rev. Mr. Hill in Athens. But he reported also that no acknowledgment of his last remittances had been received, and the rate of exchange and the increased risks of transmission had prevented further remittances being made. The blockade of Southern ports was cutting off the Confederate States from intercourse with the rest of the world. Mr. J. K. Sass, Treasurer for Domestic Missions, reported several thousand dollars contributed, mostly for the work of Bishop Lay and of Bishop Gregg. The Council devolved the work of Foreign and Domestic Missions upon the House of Bishops, as the natural missionary leaders of the Church, providing that the Bishops should appoint three of their number to act as a Board of Missions, administering the whole business, and reporting to the House of Bishops at the triennial General Council. This committee was specially charged with the "prosecuting of Foreign Missions so far as it may be able," but, until communications could be opened with foreign countries, all moneys "which have been, or may be hereafter, contributed for this object, shall be securely invested." In the Pastoral Letter put out by the Bishops at the end of this Council, one of the noblest utterances ever put forth by the Church of Christ in modern times, the Bishops refer to the subject of Foreign Missions: "Voices of supplication come to us also from the distant shores of Africa and the East, but only their echo reaches us from the throne of grace. The policy of man has shut out those utterances from us, ... but we can hear them when we kneel in prayer, and commune with their spirits through the spirit of Christ. But God is perchance intending through these inscrutable measures, to shut us up to that great work which He has placed at our doors, and which is, next to her own expansion, the Church's greatest work in these Confederate States. The religious instruction of the negroes has been thrust upon us in such a wonderful manner, that we must be blind not to perceive that not only our spiritual but our national life is wrapped up in their welfare. With them we stand or fall, and God will not permit us to be separated in interest or in fortune." Then follows a long and striking passage, urging upon all members of the Church their duty in regard to this "sacred trust committed to us, as a people, to be prepared for the work which God may have for them to do in the future," and specially urging "upon the masters of the country their obligation, as Christian men, so to arrange this institution as not to necessitate the violation of those sacred relations which God has created, and which man cannot, consistently with Christian duty, annul."
In their Pastoral the 'Bishops also call attention to the camps and hospitals, into which were crowded so many thousands of the men and youths of the South: "And we would urge it upon those ministers who have been exiled from their parishes, to enter upon this work as their present duty, trusting for support to Him Who has said, 'I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.'"
The General Council of 1862 took action in regard to the Prayer Book, directing the substitution of the word "Confederate" in the place of "United," wherever that word occurs in the name of the Church, and the word "Council" in the place of "Convention" for the legislative body of the Dioceses and for the general triennial meeting. It also directed that a Declaration of its Ratification and Adoption by the General Council of November, 1862, should be prefixed. A committee, however, was appointed to report to the next General Council such alterations as should be deemed proper, with a proviso that "such alterations involve no change in the Doctrine or Discipline of this Church." The committee was authorized to publish an edition of the Prayer Book for present use; "And also, in order to supply in part the urgent need of copies of the Prayer Book for our Soldiers and Sailors, a selection of such portions thereof as are used in public worship." It is worth noticing that in resolutions introduced by Bishop Atkinson, and apparently urged by him in the "Committee on the Bible and Book of Common Prayer," of which he was chairman, it was provided that the committee, which should be charged with bringing out the edition of the Prayer Book authorized by this Council, should "prepare a preface for said Book of Common Prayer, to be submitted to the next General Council, and, if approved by it, to be prefixed to said Book." This, though adopted by the House of Bishops, was thrown out by the Joint Committee of both Houses, who brought in the report as finally adopted. One can hardly help conjecturing that Bishop Atkinson may have had in mind the statement in the Preface as to the "ecclesiastical independence" of the Church being "necessarily included" in the civil and political independence of the Thirteen Colonies.
The Committee on the State of the Church suggested the preparation of a Pastoral Letter, and in the House of Bishops, the Bishops of Georgia, Virginia, and North Carolina were appointed to prepare such a letter. [It is understood to have been written by Bishop Elliott.] Passages relating to missionary work have already been given from it. Its unique excellence tempts me to make larger extracts. Dr. Fulton, in his admirable article in the second volume of Bishop Perry's "History of the American Episcopal Church," thus speaks of it: "The Pastoral Letter of the House of Bishops at the Council in Augusta will never cease to be precious to the Church of God. It is the noblest epitaph of the dead, and, if they needed such, it is the noblest vindication of the living, that their dearest friends could wish." It sets forth strongly, yet with tender sympathy and with broad charity, the position, the spirit, and the duty of the Church in that trying day:
"Seldom has any Council assembled in the Church of Christ under circumstances needing His presence more urgently than this which is now about to submit its conclusions to the judgment of the Universal Church. Forced by the providence of God to separate ourselves from the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States, a Church with whose doctrines, discipline, and worship we are in entire harmony, and with whose action, up to the time of that separation, we were abundantly satisfied, at a moment when civil strife had dipped its foot in blood, and civil war was desolating our homes and firesides, we required a double measure of grace to preserve the accustomed moderation of the Church in the arrangement of our organic law, in the adjustment of our code of canons, but above all in the preservation, without change, of those rich treasures of doctrine and worship, which have come to us enshrined in our Book of Common Prayer. Cut off likewise from all communication with our Sister Churches of the world, we have been compelled to act without any interchange of opinion even with our Mother Church, and alone and unaided to arrange for ourselves the organization under which we should do our part in carrying on to their consummation the purposes of God in Christ Jesus. We trust that the spirit of Christ hath indeed so directed, sanctified, and governed us in our work, that we shall be approved by all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity and in truth, and who are earnest in preparing the world for His coming in glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead.
"The Constitution of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Confederate States, under which we have been exercising our legislative functions, is the same as that of the Church from which we have been providentially separated, save that we have introduced into it a germ of expansion which was wanting in the old Constitution.
"The Canon law, which has been adopted during our present session, is altogether in its spirit, and almost in its letter, identical with that under which we have hitherto prospered....
"The Prayer Book we have left untouched in every particular, save where a change of our civil government, and the formation of a new nation, have made alteration essentially requisite. Three words comprise all the amendment which has been deemed necessary in the present emergency... .We give you back your Book of Common Prayer the same as you have intrusted it to us, believing that if it has slight defects, their removal had better be the gradual work of experience than the hasty action of a body convened almost upon the outskirts of a camp... .
"These striking encouragements vouchsafed to us from the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ should fill our hearts with earnest devotedness, and should lead us even now to enquire, 'Lord, what wilt thou have us to do?' And the answer to this question will lead us, your Chief Pastors, to specify the points to which our efforts as a Christian Church, should be specially directed... ."Christ has founded His Church upon love--for God is love... .This was His especial commandment, 'A new commandment give I unto you, that ye love one another.' And this is truly not only the new commandment, but the summary of all the commandments. The whole Gospel is redolent with it, with a broad, comprehensive, all-embracing love, appointed, like Aaron's rod, to swallow up all the other Christian graces, and to manifest the spiritual glory of God in Christ. A Church without love! What could you augur of a Church of God without faith, or a Church of Christ without hope? But love is higher grace than either faith or hope, and its absence from a Church is just the absence of the very life-blood from the body.
"Our first duty, therefore, as the children of God, is to send forth from this Council our greetings of love to the Churches of God all the world over. We greet them in Christ, and rejoice that they are partakers with us of all the grace which is treasured up in Him. We lay down today before the altar of the Crucified all our burdens of sin, and offer our prayers for the Church Militant upon earth. Whatever may be their aspect towards us politically, we cannot forget that they rejoice with us in the one Lord, the one Faith, the one Baptism, the one God and Father of all; and we wish them God-speed in all the sacred ministries of the Church. Nothing but love is consonant with the exhibition of Christ's love which is manifested in His Church, and any note of man's bitterness, except against sin, would be a sound of discord mingling with the sweet harmonies of earth and heaven. We rejoice in this golden cord, which binds us together in Christ our Redeemer, and like the ladder which Jacob saw in vision, with the angels of God ascending and descending upon it, may it ever be the channel along which shall flash the Christian greeting of the children of God.
"But while we send forth this love to the whole Church Militant upon earth, let us not forget that special love is due by us towards those of our own household. To us have been committed the treasures of the Church, and those of our own kindred and lineage, who have sprung from our loins both naturally and spiritually, who are now united with us in a sacred conflict for the dearest rights of man, ask us for the bread of life. They pray us for that which we are commanded to give, the Gospel of the grace of God. They put in no claim for anything worldly, for anything alien from the mission of the Church. Then-petition is that we will fulfil the very purpose of our institution, and give them the means of grace. Every claim which man can have upon his fellow-man they have upon us, and having these claims they ask only for the Church. They pray us not to let them perish in the wilderness; not to permit them to be cut off from the sweet communion of the Church... .
"Many of the States of this Confederacy are Missionary ground. The population is sparse and scattered; the children of the Church are few and far between; the Priests of the Lord can reach them only after great labor and privation... .Unless we take care that the Gospel is sent to these isolated children of the Church, who will heed their cry? They have no Church to cry to, but the Church which we now represent, and they cast themselves upon us in full faith that we will do our whole duty towards them. They are one with us in faith, and care, and suffering; they are bearing like evils with those which disturb us, and they have no worship to cheer and support them, no Gospel to preach to them patience and long-suffering. For Christ's sake they pray that they may be given at least a Mother's bosom to die upon... ."And now it only remains for us to bid you, one and all, an affectionate farewell... .May God's gracious Providence guide you in safety to your homes, and preserve them from the desolations of war. And should we not be permitted to battle together any more for Christ in the Church Militant, may we be deemed worthy to be members of the Church Triumphant, where with prophets, apostles, martyrs, saints, and angels, we may ascribe honor and glory, dominion and praise, to Him that sitteth upon the Throne, and to the Lamb, forever!"